Respect for Flames led Feaster to Calgary
The closest Darryl Sutter has been to a Stanley Cup came in 2004, when he coached the Calgary Flames to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Tthe Lightning emerged victorious, thanks in large part to the roster built by Tampa Bay's general manager, Jay Feaster.
Six years later Sutter, now the GM of the Flames, was looking for help in the front office. The man he turned to was none other than Feaster, who was hired as assistant GM in late July.
NHL.com had a chance to catch up with Feaster recently to talk about why he took Sutter up on his offer, what his role will be, and whether he wears his 2004 Cup ring around the Flames' offices.
"He (Iginla) is a premier player in the League. Now in my mind, the next step in that evolution for him and the next place for him to go is to be the guy that helps lead a team to a Stanley Cup. In my mind that's the biggest thing now. It isn't about the individual statistics or accolades, it's about now coming together as the captain of the club and a guy who is looked to as the leader and helping us win the Stanley Cup."
-- Jay Feaster
FEASTER: It's because I respect Darryl so very much. I told him when we first me to talk about it, that I would not be willing to be an AGM for just any manager or just any team. The respect I have for him and the respect I have for the organization … my observation through the years is it's always been a first-class operation since Darryl and (president/CEO) Ken King have been there. The opportunity to work for Darryl and this franchise made it an attractive spot for me.
NHL.COM: How exactly did Darryl convince you to come on board?
FEASTER: As soon as he started talking about the job, the role he saw me play, being on board to work for the Flames, I was sold in that respect. Certainly the deal was done when he told me how he wanted to structure the position.
NHL.COM: How much impact or say will you have in day-to-day operations?
FEASTER: I think it'll be pretty significant from the standpoint that since Darryl talked to me, he said I'm looking for a partner. This isn't a traditional AGM role. I think there will be significant responsibility.
NHL.COM: Can you describe exactly what your role will be?
FEASTER: It is a different position in that Darryl made it clear to me that he wants me to be an interface with the players, travel with the club, he wants me to be a day-to-day management interface with the coaching staff. He has been a head coach, so himself, he doesn't like to be in their space, he doesn't like to make it appear that he's hovering. That's not the role he wants to play. He knows there are times that management presence is needed and he knows that's how I operated in Tampa. It is a bit different. The position also has the responsibility of overseeing the professional scouting staff. It is different than the traditional AGM role.
You spent six years as the GM in Tampa and won a Stanley Cup, but before that you were the assistant GM there under Rick Dudley. Is it fun being the No. 2 guy again?
FEASTER: It's funny, but yes it is. As much as I want to manage my own club again -- I told Darryl that that's my goal -- but I also told him I'm not coming here to try to take his job and manage the Flames. I want to get back into a manager's chair at some point in my career, because I'm young enough to do that. But it's nice to be part of the ensemble and not be the lead singer in the band.
NHL.COM: Have you seen Darryl more relaxed and comfortable with you on board?
FEASTER: It's interesting. I had somebody internally comment to me that he went away on a holiday in August, and that it's the first time he's done that in four or five years. I'm not going to say that that's because I was on board, but I felt good about the fact that he felt he could do that and that I was there, that there was somebody else minding the store while he was gone. How much of that is me and how much of that is situational, I don't know. He and I get along very well and things are good from that standpoint. I hope he feels that way.
NHL.COM: What are the expectations for the team this season?
FEASTER: Clearly the expectation is that we expect to be a playoff team. This organization, as was stated to me from Day 1 by Darryl, by Ken King, by ownership, they're a cap team. They want to win a Stanley Cup and they want to compete for the Stanley Cup each and every year. The additions that were made in the offseason, some players we expect to have a bounce-back year, it’s the second year for Brent (Sutter, coach) and the players know what to expect, how he wants them to play, all those things should make us a playoff team and we should compete to win the division. The internal expectations are very high and very demanding.
NHL.COM: The signings of Alex Tanguay and Olli Jokinen were the big talks of summer. You weren't officially part of the club when they were added, but were you part of how those moves came together?
FEASTER: I wasn't on board, but Daryl phoned me on July 1 and told me what the team was going to do. The whole lynchpin was Tanguay. One of the big problems was Olli tried to become something he's not and that's be a playmaker. He and Jarome (Iginla) are both shooters. Putting them together, he (Jokinen) felt he had to set up Jarome. But bringing in Tanguay, he's the playmaker and that's what they felt they needed for both guys. And the other factor is the salary. Having Olli at the salary he's at now, it’s a different scenario for the club than where he had been.
NHL.COM: Were you surprised by some of the negative fan reaction to the signings?
FEASTER: I think if you were to poll people when you looked at it, the perception is it's all negative reaction. But I don't believe that to be the case. There was a split to what the reaction was. As far as fan reaction, I respect the people that pay their money and come see the product. I think that’s one of the best parts of being a fan, you can express how you feel. The fans have that right to do that. And even if the fans have applauded it, until you drop the puck and start to play the game and start to see it play out, it doesn't really matter a whole lot. You have to get to the point where you count the wins and losses in the standings and see how things shake out.
NHL.COM: Having seen Jarome Iginla from afar, what kind of player is he now?
FEASTER: I think he's a player who is a dominating power forward. He's a guy that has so much talent and so much ability and the size and the strength. He's a premier player in the League. Now in my mind, the next step in that evolution for him and the next place for him to go is to be the guy that helps lead a team to a Stanley Cup. In my mind that's the biggest thing now. It isn't about the individual statistics or accolades, it's about now coming together as the captain of the club and a guy who is looked to as the leader and helping us win the Stanley Cup.
NHL.COM: One guy can't do it himself, though. Which other players need to step up to help him?
FEASTER: I think we're looking for contributions throughout the lineup. It's not just looking at Olli and Alex. We expect (Rene) Bourque to have another strong season. We expect big things out of Matt Stajan. We hope Daymond Langkow is going to come back and be healthy. On the blue line, Jay Bouwmeester has to take the next step. Ian White, who has a significant contract and is playing for his next contract, we need a big season from him, (Mark) Giordano, we need a big season from. Cory Sarich has to have a bounce-back season. There's a pretty good supporting cast around him and it's up to those players to step up and contribute.
NHL.COM: Do you worry about the team becoming over-reliant on Miikka Kiprusoff to win games?
FEASTER: Darryl made a trade at the draft for a goaltender (Henrik Karlsson) that can step in and play games and lessen that burden. The load on Kipper the last few years has been in excess of 70 games a year. The goalie wants to play, and the coach wants the No. 1 goalie in there, but we've all seen those guys need rest. Hopefully that's something that's going to happen as well.
NHL.COM: Is it strange at all working for the team you beat for the Stanley Cup in 2004? I guess you're not wearing the championship ring around the office?
FEASTER: I get the question all the time. Murray Edwards, the chairman of the ownership group, I get it constantly from him, (Martin) Gelinas' goal was in there from Game 6, that kind of good-natured stuff. The thing is, and it's one of the reasons that I'm in this position. We as an organization in Tampa had so much respect for the Calgary organization. I had a great relationship with Darryl when I was in Tampa and I'd like to think it was that experience in '04 that helped land me here today. Irony, I'm not sure if that's the right word, but I think that history is something that has made a difference.
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com